For my first blog entry of the year, I highlight four of my favorite tech tools that I use to up my game when it comes to how I present myself.
Do you hate to see yourself on video? It’s not you; it’s your camera. The built-in camera in your computer is junk. A relatively small investment in a decent camera could change the way you feel about being on video.
After embarking on my career as a YouTube star, I realized I needed a better camera. I tried out a bunch and then did some research (I could have saved myself some time if I had done the research first) and ended up with a Logitech C925-e webcam (currently just $70 on amazon). It has been a revelation from the moment I first turned it on.
Through my research, I learned that Logitech is generally considered to be the gold standard in video cameras. If you want a decent camera and you don’t want to spend a lot of time on research, you probably can’t go wrong with a Logitech camera. You definitely want a camera with built-in light correction (with my Logitech camera, the room can be nearly dark and I still look bright and cheery). For me, the second most important factor is the field of view, which is how wide the image is. I find that 65 to 80 degrees is about right for Zoom calls. Any wider than that and there’s too much peripheral stuff in the frame and the background can start to look distorted.
Whatever you decide, I recommend buying from a source that will allow you to return the camera if it doesn’t work out. Until you try out the camera, you can’t know for sure that you’ll like it.
Pro Tip: Although most cameras are plug and play and will work without any special software, download the software that comes with the camera anyway so you have more control. The Logitech software allows me to disable autofocus when it becomes annoying (because I move my hands around a lot, autofocus sometimes isn’t sure what to focus on) and change the zoom setting (that’s lowercase zoom, i.e., how big I am in the frame).
If you attended any NASPP webcasts this year, you probably noticed that we’ve been spiffing up our slide decks (e.g., see this deck). I’ve been on a mission to eliminate the endless parade of bullet point slides that typically populate my presentations. Yet, I struggled with this mission. Smart Art in PowerPoint never looks as “smart” as I would like and the PowerPoint design ideas are nearly impossible to work with (and PowerPoint never has any ideas when I need them most).
Eventually it occurred to me that there’s probably a source for professionally designed PowerPoint slides somewhere on the internet. A Google search reveals tons (tons!) of sources for PowerPoint slides that make me look like I have a degree in graphic design for what I consider to be a totally reasonable annual subscription.
I subscribe to SlideModel.com. It allows me to search for a design that aligns with the number of bullet points in my slide and has templates for timelines, roadmaps, process flows, circular diagrams, backgrounds, maps, shapes, and other cool things. If you want a cohesive look for your presentation, it has full presentation templates.
I can easily modify all the templates and when I copy them into the official NASPP template, the colors automatically update to match our color scheme. (Pro tip: For this to work, you need to be using the desktop version of PowerPoint, not the online version, and you need to tell PowerPoint to match the destination formatting when you paste the SlideModel slides into your corporate template). I haven’t used it, but SlideModel.com also has a concierge service where they will help you find a template that works for you. My slides have never looked so good!
Proofreading has always been my downfall, but I’ve discovered a new feature in Microsoft Word that has been a game changer: the Read Aloud function. This function tells Microsoft to read whatever I’ve written back to me and highlights each word as it reads it. Misspellings, incorrect words (i.e., words that are spelled right but aren’t the word I intended to type—I constantly type “thing” when I mean “think”), missing words, duplicate words, and other errors suddenly leap off the page at me.
Read Aloud is also available in Outlook, so I can use it for my emails. It’s not perfect—the Read Aloud voice is annoying and can lull me to sleep when I am tired (and you do have to be awake for it to work). Moreover, it may not help with punctuation errors, although it can help you identify awkward phrasings. But it has significantly reduced the errors in my emails and in NASPP publications.
Do you open every email in your inbox? Neither do your stock plan participants. What is the most important part of any blast email you send? The subject line, of course. It makes or breaks your email. You need a subject line that draws people in and compels them to open the email because emails that aren’t opened, aren’t read.
Subject line evaluators tell you whether your email subject line will get you the open rate that you want and offer suggestions for how to improve it. They are easy to use, many are available for free, and they can be found with a quick Google search. Two of my favorite are Omnisend and Netlantic.
I used Omnisend to improve the title of this blog entry. I started with “My Favorite Things” (too short and no action words, scored only a 67%), refined it to “My Favorite Things: 5 Tools to Look Your Best in 2022” (too long, but has a number in it, so the score jumped to 75%), then “5 Tools to Look Your Best in 2022” (better, 75%), and finally settled on “4 Tech Tools to Try in 2022” (92%, the word “try” apparently makes it more compelling).
Subject line evaluators are such a simple way to improve your emails yet only 4% of respondents to our pulse survey on participant education use them. Make a resolution to incorporate them into your participant communications for 2022!
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